Category Archives: History

What do DC bartenders drink?

Jessica Sidman of Washington City Paper put together a lovely retrospective on what the city’s restaurant industry has been drinking in its leisure time, going back over a decade and spanning from Irish Mist all the way to Old Overholt. Recommended.

The Lost-and-Found Legacy of Barbara Ringer

Amanda Levendowski at The Atlantic put together a great story about a woman who should be much better-known:

I came across a quote a few weeks ago—one that so perfectly encapsulates the outdatedness and skepticism surrounding copyright law—that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen before: “The 1976 Copyright Act is a good 1950 copyright law.”

It was attributed to someone I didn’t know: Barbara Ringer.

She was one of only a few women in her graduating class at Columbia Law School back in 1949. Just after graduation, she took a position with the Copyright Office as an examiner, where she determined the registrability of applicants’ submitted works. When she wasn’t busy working her way up through nearly every position at the Copyright Office, Ringer was drafting the Universal Copyright Convention, attending international copyright conferences, and teaching at Georgetown Law Center as the university’s first woman adjunct professor of law.

She conducted empirical research. She published her work in law journals. She even wrote the article about copyright law for the Fifteenth Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

And then I realized that I did know her. We all sort of know her: She was one of the lead architects of the 1976 Copyright Act. I went to law school to become a copyright lawyer. I had read her copyright law. I’d taken classes about her copyright law. I’d even written about her copyright law. And yet, I had never heard a word about her.

A Quest for the Secret Origins of Lost Video-Game Levels [link]

Heidi Kemps of the Atlantic with a nice remembrance of a) the pre-internet world of video game rumors; b) how some mysterious prototype Sonic the Hedgehog levels surfaced in the late ’90s; and c) what it’s like for an adult to talk to one of her childhood heroes.

Corporate mismanagement cost the world 2 decades of tasty tacos

Alexis Madrigal over at The Atlantic with a shocking revelation about the Taco Bell Doritos Tacos Locos:

Recall that part of the narrative of the taco is that no one had ever thought of it before. That’s what made it so exciting. It was a breakthrough! A startlingly original idea! Mind-blowing!

But what if Taco Bell people had thought of Dorito taco shells before? What if they, like almost anyone who has ever had a bag of Doritos or a crunchy taco, had considered the possibility of uniting these two faux-Mexican treats?

That is exactly what happened, says David Peterman, who was the vice president of new concept operations at Taco Bell in the early 1990s, during the days of the Taco Bell chihuahua.

I’m on the record as somewhat disgusted by Taco Bell’s approach to “food ingredients”, but to withhold this innovation from the market for 20 years is a fast food travesty.

Comics Are Doing Just Fine

Bill Watterson, creator of the legendary Calvin & Hobbes, in a rare interview with Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum curator Jenny Robb:

I can’t really picture the average person going to the trouble of curating his own little comic section, much less reading a new and unfamiliar strip for months to build up a relationship with it. There’s so much other content available—instantly and all for free—that there’s no reason to stick around if you’re not immediately enthralled. We consume everything like potato chips now.  In this environment, I suspect the cartoonist’s connection with readers is likely to be superficial and fleeting, unless he taps into some fervent special interest niche. And that audience, almost by definition, will be tiny. It’s a very different world from the days when everyone in America knew who Popeye, Dick Tracy or Charlie Brown was.

Though he probably has a point that the audience for a given comic may never again reach the sizes common in the pre-internet era, I think the rest of this statement is inaccurate. There are lots of people enthusiastically following cartoonists’ work today – my guess is, way more than there were in Calvin & Hobbes‘s heyday. And new comics are finding success all the time, with their creators forming extremely strong connections with their readers (ask Ryan North or Kate Beaton or Joey Comeau/Emily Horne, or some other cartoonists who aren’t from Canada).

I’m sure the world of cartooning has changed a million different ways over the last decade or two, but on the whole I suspect things are much better now – for creators and for readers.

There’s a lot of other good stuff in the interview. Bill Watterson is a great guy whose work I love, and Robb also spoke with Richard Thompson, a longtime Washington Post institution as creator of, among other things, Cul de Sac.

Amazing scans of sea beasts and scaly creatures

From the Smithsonian’s collection, the Biodiversity Heritage Library posted the contents of “Histoire naturelle de Lacépède : comprenant les cétacés, les quadrupèdes ovipares, les serpents et les poissons”, first published in 1976 (more info here). There are 24 incredible illustrations, including this handsome depiction of “le dauphin vulgaire” (you can navigate between prints below, or click through for the full set):

I highly recommend looking at all of these, if you have a few minutes (the snake section is particularly neat). 

h/t flubby!